Limerick taxi operators offer concerns over Uber

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Uber has set up a temporary office at the former Anglo Irish Bank offices at Henry Street. The company is to create 300 jobs at its new facility at the juntion of Catherine Street and Thomas Street (below)
WHILE there has been a huge welcome for Uber’s decision to open a Centre of Excellence in Limerick, a city taxi firm owner believes it could be “a disaster” for his industry.

WHILE there has been a huge welcome for Uber’s decision to open a Centre of Excellence in Limerick, a city taxi firm owner believes it could be “a disaster” for his industry.

Jude Williams, who owns Treaty Cabs in Davis Street, said that while Uber has insisted it will only allow licensed taxi or limousine drivers to operate here, he is concerned it may renege on this at a later stage.

But Eric Hatton, a taxi driver from Pallaskenry said he was “reassured” that the service can only be operated by cabbies.

“Even though our industry is heavily regulated, it is probably a good job that it is so regulated in this case,” he said.

Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan pledged to ensure competition rules are “strongly adhered to”.

In other jurisdictions, Uber is open to anyone who has a car, and they can charge for seats. In Ireland, they only allow licensed taxi drivers use the service.

Uber has made headlines in both New York and Paris, leading to calls for the service to be capped.

The service currently operates in Dublin, and with the firm due to open a support centre in Limerick City Centre, Uber will also operate on Shannonside. However, the Irish market is miniscule compared to Uber’s worldwide operation, and the centre in Limerick will managing support services in Europe, the Middle East and Asia (EMEA), rather than targeting the local taxi industry, it is understood.

The company said the Limerick centre would “become a major hub of Uber’s support organisation within EMEA driving innovation and service excellence for the community of Riders and Partner Drivers in the region”.

But Mr Williams said: “They are coming in at the moment and are saying they are only hiring taxi and limousine drivers. But they did this in the States, and then they ended up hiring people driving every car on the roads. It became a free for all. Any guy finishing work could say there is a car outside, and could sign up for it, and get work off us.”

He added that taxi drivers should not sign up to the service.